An Evening In Times Square

When it comes to Times Square, I’m one of those rare New Yorkers who actually likes it. Between working in the Crossroads of the World and being a Broadway aficionado, I appreciate it as an apex of hustle and bustle — and great dining if you know where to go.

During a recent girls night out with my work BFF Lisa, we headed to two of my favorite Times Square spots. First stop —The Lambs Club, a cozy bar and restaurant at the Chatwal Hotel that is equal parts swanky and boutique-style charm.

the-lambs-club

The Lambs Club’s upstairs bar. Love the NYC-themed light fixtures! (photo courtesy: Facebook.com/TheLambsClub)

Over cocktails and a tasty plate of hot mixed nuts, we talked about old friends, new beginnings and taking chances. Then, it was off to Café Un Deux Trois, a delightful French bistro that never disappoints. I departed from my usual picks here, enjoying the pâté starter and a perfectly cooked salmon burger.

It was a short stroll from dinner to the Sondheim Theater for Beautiful: the Carole King musical. Beautiful is a richly entertaining journey through King’s life and work. Packed with 25 pop hits like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “So Far Away” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” it’s also a fascinating look at the stories behind these classic songs, soulfully performed by the cast. Catch Beautiful before it closes in September.

A Trio Of Must-See Shows

One of my favorite parts of living in the Big Apple is having access to amazing theater. This weekend, I had the pleasure and good fortune of enjoying this cherished form of entertainment not once, but three times.

Friday’s Broadway experience took place at The Westin New York At Times Square, a first class hotel that makes every workday I spend there a thoroughly delightful and exciting one.

All smiles with my colleagues Ali (center) and Chris

Through Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) partner Audience Rewards, the Westin has teamed up with the beloved blockbuster musical WICKED for a two-month activation featuring exclusive packages and a lobby display of show costumes and memorabilia. Friday afternoon, we welcomed cast members to perform three songs from the show.

#WICKEDAtWestin: Wonderful!

As I stood there newly smitten with this beloved musical (which I saw in London years ago), I felt blessed all over again to have a job that makes such incredible moments possible. And to work with such a smart, fun and dedicated group of people.

The fun continued on Saturday, with a matinee preview performance of Something Rotten. Set during the 1590s, Something Rotten is the infectious tale of two writers desperate to create a hit play as Shakespeare continues to steal the limelight. When a fortune teller suggests they create the first-ever musical, hilarity ensues. Something Rotten playfully pokes fun at musicals while also showcasing what makes them so irresistible when they’re done so well.

After the show and cocktails/appetizers at Sardi’s, I met up with my cousin Carla and Titi Lydia for part two of my Saturday double header — the Radio City Spring Spectacular.

DerekLaura

Derek Hough and Laura Benanti are magical together (photo courtesy: Gannett-cdn.com)

The dazzling 90 minute production is a love letter to NYC. Starring Tony Award winner Laura Benanti of TV’S Nashville and Dancing With The Stars‘ Derek Hough, it takes you on a journey through NYC’s iconic places, with majestic staging and beautiful choreography featuring the Rockettes.

My face almost hurt from smiling so much — that’s how much I loved the Spring Spectacular and Something Rotten. Both are must see entertainment now that spring is slowly, finally arriving!

Girls Night Out In Long Island

Last night, I headed to Long Island for a night out with gal pals Tasha, Mimma and Theresa.

20150314_205941

Mimma, me and Tasha

Tasha was visiting from LA, so this was a special reunion, made even more fun by the presence of Theresa’s hubby, siblings and friends who know and love Tasha too.

We piled in to the Rockville Centre location of Croxley Ales Great American Ale House, a lively bar with a great crowd. Over drinks and apps (mozzarella sticks, wings, chicken fingers–classic bar food, yum), we caught up on each other’s lives and shared a lot of laughs. Among the topics of conversation: Beverly Hills 90210 versus Melrose Place, precocious children (Tasha, Theresa and Mimma are all moms) and dating dramas created by texting. We also reminisced about Theresa’s awesome bridal shower awhile back.

As we talked, I found myself feeling so thankful that our mutual dear friend Caroline introduced us years ago. Tash, Mimma and Theresa are amazing women – smart, fun, kind and sassy.

With spring finally upon us, they mentioned the possibility of visiting some of Long Island’s many wineries. Looking forward to that and many more fun times with these great ladies!

Catching Up With A Cleveland Friend

Yesterday, I headed over to Bed, Bath and Beyond, where I had the pleasure of catching up with my Cleveland-based friend Ryan.

20150228_161048

Ryan and me

Ryan was in town sampling his delicious Inca Tea. Ryan and two of his college friends were inspired to create Inca Tea after hiking a 16,000 foot Peruvian mountain trail. During their journey, they learned about an ancient Incan tea recipe including antioxidant rich purple corn.

As a longtime tea lover, I love that all Inca Teas are non-GMO and made with 100% natural ingredients. Each individual tea bag is also twice the size of what you get from other brands. Inca Tea currently offer four varieties–black, mango, peach and my personal favorite, the top selling spiced berry. New flavors coconut ginger and chamomile will debut next month.

Ryan’s visit to sample Inca Teas in NYC and New Jersey coincided with a significant anniversary — five years to the day since my Great Dating Blitz.

Ryan was one of several fun, friendly singles I met in Cleveland, the first stop on my eight-week, eight city adventure. As we reminisced and caught up about life, work and dating, I couldn’t help thinking about how much I’ve grown because of everything I experienced during that eventful trip.

GreatDatingBlitz3AndMay2010 019

Cleveland rocks: (from left) Locals Diana, Ryan and Kim showed me a great time during my Great Dating Blitz visit (March 2010).

I’ve written and spoken a lot about what I learned of both the similarities and differences of dating in each city on my itinerary. And I’ve shared often one of the major takeaways from the trip — that the best thing about being single in New York is also the worst: there’s no pressure to settle down. But the greatest epiphany I had is one which has taken me all of these years to fully act on.

After my first dating blitz ended (a European sequel followed a few months later), I realized that a pair of ghosts — my deceased parents and first love Mark — were holding me back. I was so stuck on mourning those losses that I had little emotional bandwidth to move forward. I was also living in the past (literally) in a home defined by furniture, art and knickknacks inherited from Mom and Dad.

Now, at long last, I am completing what I started five years ago. I am embracing the present, buoyed by a decluttered mind and heart and newly redecorated home. I am appreciating exactly where I am in life, mindful that it’s different from where I expected to be but no less wonderful because of it.

A few days ago, I came across this quote–

“The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come.”

Amen.

A Fun-Filled Florida Getaway

For as much as I love NYC, sometimes you just need a break from it, especially during a winter as frigid as this one. So I was especially excited to spend President’s Day weekend down South in Jacksonville, visiting my Titi Eneida and cousins Monica and Steven. Joining in the festivities — NY-based cousins Dana and Carla.

Group

Family Reunion: (from left) Titi Eneida, Dana, Monica and hubby Michael, Carla and me in St. Augustine

Our Florida getaway was perfect from start to finish. Saturday, we drove down to St. Augustine. This charming, historic town (the oldest in the US) never fails to delight with its cobblestone streets lined with quaint shops and Spanish style architecture.

After strolling around and browsing in a few stores, we went to A1A Ale Works for a delightful lunch on the balcony (lobster and shrimp tacos, mmmm). But the weekend’s most memorable, delicious meal happened later at Titi Eneida’s house.

Titi prepared a Valentine’s feast, with a festively decorated table, homemade spinach salad, pizza with sausage and peppers, chocolate cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries.

JaxPix

Best Valentine’s Day meal ever!

Sunday, we drove to St. John’s Town Center, a beautiful outdoor mall with 150 stores, where I finally found two major items for my home makeover (details to come!) and savored the sunshine in a cozy seating area outside Nordstrom’s.

Later, after a brief visit to Jax Beach, we went back to Monica and hubby Michael’s place for a laughter filled night watching Saturday Night Live ‘ s epic 40th anniversary special.

I am so happy this family reunion coincided with Valentine’s Day. It reminded how blessed I am to have so much love in my life, and be related to so many wonderful people. And really, that’s what February 14th is truly about: cherishing every kind of love — regardless of your relationship status.

A Wonderful Weekend

For as much as I adore my city and country, there’s another part of the world that has a big piece of my heart – Australia. This weekend, I was reminded of why thanks to a visit from my Aussie friend Dave.

It had been more than 12 years since I last saw Dave, when I stayed with him during a fun-filled visit to Perth in Western Australia.

PerthNightOut

My last night in Perth back in ’02: Dave (far right) and me with his friends (from left) Adrian, Michelle and Jason.

The quintessential example of Aussie hospitality, Dave hosted me though our only connection was my best Aussie mate Sue being the wife of his buddy Chris. The trip ended up being one of the highlights of my five month stint as an Australian resident, due in no small part to Dave setting me up with a very charming friend of his.

So when Dave recently sent me a Facebook message that work would be bringing him this way, I was more than delighted to reciprocate his generosity in opening up his home to me – and show him some of my favorite NYC hotspots.

DaveMel

Dave and me at O’Flanagan’s

Friday night, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at El Porron on the UES, sharing tapas (flank steak empanadas, grilled squid) dessert (vanilla flan) and conversation about family, work and the appreciation of time that comes with getting older. Then, it was off to Irish dive bar O’Flanagan’s for after dinner drinks and the smooth grooves of cover band East Coast. An aspiring Texas-born comedian and his girlfriend added to the fun, as did having the chance to hit the dance floor a few times.

Yesterday, we stopped at Stumptown Coffee in the Ace Hotel before heading over to Barbounia, an equal parts cozy and trendy Greek restaurant in Gramercy, then on to the W Union Square’s lobby bar.

Our last stop of the night was Lillie’s Victorian, a venue rich with the décor that inspires its name and packed with twenty and thirtysomethings. Dave and I were there to celebrate my dear friend Lauren’s birthday, which we did with a lot of laughs and musings about the joys of binge watching (having recently signed up for Netflix at last, it’s something I am attempting to resist).

Catching up with Dave brought back many fond memories of my time Down Under. And made me look forward to the day when, hopefully, I pay the land of Oz another visit!

A Birthday To Remember

When it comes to birthdays, I usually agree with what Oprah says about celebrating them — rock it out. After the fanfare with which I greeted turning 40 last year, though, I enjoyed a quieter but equally festive celebration for my 41st, while being reminded of just how fortunate I truly am.

SushiSambaNight

Celebrating with my pals Crystal (left) and Sara

Last Saturday, longtime dear friends Sara and Crystal joined me for dinner at Sushi Samba in the West Village. This lively fusion restaurant never fails to disappoint, with its festive vibe and fun menu. In addition to rock shrimp and mouthwatering sushi rolls, we indulged in a decadent dessert duo — chocolate banana cake and s’mores pops.

We talked a lot about new beginnings happening for each of us at the moment. 2015 definitely feels like a year that will continue the fresh start I embarked on in 2014, from my home makeover to taking on a third hotel at work, the fantastic Westin New York At Times Square. The blessing of truly loving what I do is one that I never, ever take for granted.

TiramisuCake

My Westin Times Square colleagues surprised me with this delicious tiramisu cake!

Speaking of blessings, my birthday was jam packed with them.

Wednesday began with receiving two beautiful bouquets of flowers, 11 text messages and a flurry of birthday greetings on Facebook. Old friends, new friends and even a few old flames took a moment to wish me a Happy Birthday. After treating myself to a huge vanilla cupcake at Crumbs and my annual spa massage at Bliss 49, I enjoyed dinner at Luna Piena, a longtime favorite Italian restaurant, with my beloved cousin and best friend, Alexandra.

Birthday

Alexandra and me

Celebrating with my nearest and dearest, moments of pampering and feeling truly loved — as far as birthdays go, 41 couldn’t have been any more perfect!

A Week of Dining and Redecorating Adventures

When it comes to dining in the Big Apple, my late, wise mom used to say–

“If you want good French food, go to France. If you want good Italian food, go to Italy. If you want good everything, come to New York.”

This week, I was reminded of just how true this is as I had the pleasure of eating out five times (a personal record, I think). Four of those meals were at three favorites: my beloved Beach Cafe, La Fonda Del Sol and Hill Country Barbecue.

The fifth brought me one of the great foodie joys of being a New Yorker — discovering a fantastic new restaurant right at your doorstep.

JeanClaude

Jean Claude II is utterly delightful (photo courtesy: jeanclaudenyc.com)

Tuesday night, my friend Colin and I enjoyed dinner at Jean Claude II, a cozy, charming little French bistro on the UES that I’ve walked past many times. Perfect for quiet conversation, the restaurant also offers warm, attentive service and fabulous food. The escargot, sautéed skate and chocolate mousse are all magnifique.

An effervescent force of nature, Colin and I met through work a few years ago — the company he worked for was producing a photo shoot at The Westin New York Grand Central. But he was already acquainted with me–

“Are you the single gal?” he asked, a reference to my dating blog, SingleGalNYC.com.

We immediately hit it off, as he blew me away with his creativity and extraordinary talent for completely transforming a space.

I am having the great good fortune of tapping into Colin’s expertise as I continue my big home makeover project. After dinner, we spent hours going over every nook and cranny of my place. Thanks to Colin’s suggestions, I have moved some furniture around so my living room already feels like it has been infused with new energy and breathing space.

livingrm

The buffet and table pictured here are showcased so much more in this new configuration!

The same could be said of my perspective on other areas of life. I’ve never felt readier or more excited for the fresh start afforded by a new year. Those feelings only grow with each change I make to my abode.

Green accent wall, here I come!

Farewell To 2014

With 2014 drawing to a close, I’m feeling the inevitable wistfulness that accompanies turning the calendar page. It’s been a year of breakthroughs and new beginnings for me — on several fronts.

As always, family and friends were by my side for all of 2014’s milestone moments. From celebrating the big 4-0 in January to making the front page of The New York Times’ travel section in August, my nearest and dearest made the joys sweeter and the sorrows infinitely more bearable.

3ofUs

Celebrating the big 4-0 with my brothers Ray (left) and Steve

For the first time, I found myself seriously considering a move out of New York. But after multiple trips to potential new hometown L.A., I realized it was a change of perspective and not a change of zip code that I needed. The experience of attending Oprah’s The Life You Want event in September hastened this long overdue mental shift.

Oprah

Oprah!

The two-day event at Newark’s Prudential Center offered wisdom and inspiration from Miss O, Rob Bell, Mark Nepo, Elizabeth Gilbert and Iyanla Vanzant. One of the mantras that truly hit a nerve came from Iyanla–

“The life you want is on the other side of the labor pains to birth it.”

That’s when I finally (!) realized I have literally been living in the past. And so began the cathartic process of changing my home from being about my deceased parents to being a reflection of me. Repainting, decluttering and discarding has never felt so good.

Of course, no recap of the last 12 months would be complete without reflecting on my love life. This year, I have been reminded several times that people appear, and in some cases, reappear exactly when they’re supposed to. 2014 gave me the opportunity to make amends and reconnect with two significant others.

Just before Thanksgiving, I was reunited with someone special I dated last year. During a wonderful evening together, we effortlessly picked up right where we left off. I apologized for the times that I wrongfully held him accountable for previous romantic disappointments. As always, he responded with understanding and tenderness – reaffirming for me how fortunate I am to know him.

More recently, I heard from an ex-boyfriend I dated when I was in my twenties and then again briefly nine years ago. He too gave me and taught me so much during the time we were together. He made the most of the connection we had while completely respecting that we were at different stages of life.

When we reconciled back in 2005, I was recovering from a recent breakup and ended up hurting him as a result. I should have reached out to him sooner to say how badly I felt about it. Being the wonderful person he is, he took the initiative instead – giving me the opportunity to express my remorse and reiterate how much I will always value what we’ve shared over the years.

I am ending 2014 exactly where I should be, with a clean slate emotionally and the desire to look forward and not back. Maybe life really does begin at 40.

Happy New Year!

A Season Of New Beginnings

The holiday season is a time for making new memories and cherishing old ones. I’ve been doing a lot of that – especially today. Eight years ago today, my beloved Dad passed away after a lengthy, heroic battle with prostate cancer.

DadMel0001

Dad and me

As I shared in this Father’s Day roundup of paternal wisdom, Dad packed a lot of living into his 90 years. He taught me so much about living life with zest, always seeking to learn and embrace new adventures and loving with an open heart. Which is why I’m so thankful that, for the first time on this anniversary, the sadness I usually feel has been eclipsed with what this time of year is all about: feeling blessed.

This weekend, I welcomed an intimate group of family and friends for my annual holiday party.

P1110645

All smiles next to my tree

Along with laughter and some yummy dishes (including homemade vanilla pudding from my late grandpa’s recipe), I shared my home makeover progress: a fresh coat of paint in the bedroom, a completely reconfigured office and framed recent photos replacing the many I had displayed of my parents. If there’s such a thing as feng shui, I’m definitely feeling a lot more of it as this process continues.

Being the wise man that he was, Dad had urged me long ago not to hold on to so many knickknacks from our family home. But letting go of the past – or, at least, honoring it without letting it hold you back – is something that takes time to be ready for. I can think of no better Christmas gift than to know that I am finally in this place of embracing a fresh start.

Today also marks the seventh night of Hanukkah. I could feel Dad’s spirit with me tonight when I lit the menorah.

Rest in peace, Dad.

Website Apps